Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)
170. THE OATH'S PUNISHMENT
Perry 239 (Chambry
A certain man took a deposit from a friend but intended to keep it for
himself. When the depositor then summoned him to swear an oath regarding
the deposit, he realized the danger he was in and prepared to leave the
city and go to his farm. When he reached the city gates, he saw a lame
man who was also on his way out of town. He asked the man who he was and
where he was going. The man said that he was the god named Oath and that
he was on his way to track down wicked people. The man then asked Oath
how often he revisited each city. Oath replied, 'I come back after forty
years, or sometimes thirty.' Accordingly, on the very next day the man
did not hesitate to swear an oath that he had never received the deposit.
But then the man ran into Oath, who dragged him off to the edge of a cliff.
The man asked Oath how he could have said that he wasn't coming back for
another thirty years when in fact he didn't even grant him a single day's
reprieve. Oath explained, 'You also need to know that if somebody intends
to provoke me, I am accustomed to come back again the very same day.'
The fable shows that there is no fixed day on which wicked people are
punished by the god.
Note: The divine embodiment of the oath, called Horkos in Greek, was
represented as being lame, since it often took him a very long time
to catch up with oath-breakers and punish them. For another account
of why the gods' justice is frequently delayed, see Fable
Aesop's Fables. A new translation by Laura
Oxford University Press (World's Classics): Oxford, 2002.
cover, with new ISBN, published in 2008; contents of book unchanged.